Cobourne pokes holes in defence

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET

HAMILTON -- There are three reasons Avon Cobourne was wearing Ticats' black and gold this week.

First, there's all the lovely money. Second, participating in this mini-camp gets him acclimated to his new club. And, finally, the Alouettes made his wife really, really angry. But, not necessarily in that order.

"I wanted to stay (in Montreal)," said Cobourne, "but it has been an easy transition because in the end, my wife said: 'Let's go! Let's do it!' And, you know how it is; she's basically the boss."

After five seasons developing into the Alouettes' star tailback, Cobourne signed a free agent deal that could see him earn up to $135,000 this season with Hamilton.

This week he has been a vocal and vital force during spirited workouts as 53 Hamilton players participated in the CFL's initial experiment with off-season mini-camps. "It's still just football no matter where I'm playing and I want to win wherever that is," Cobourne said Friday.

Still that he is here at all is a bit unlikely. He had become a lynch-pin in a Montreal offence that treats the Grey Cup like an annual team reunion party.

Cobourne rushed for 1,214 yards in 2009, when he was named to the CFL's all-star team and was voted the Grey Cup's most valuable player. He was utilized less frequently out of the backfield last season, gaining 956 yards in 15 games while being limited to 184 carries but was a key element in the Als' victory over Toronto in the East final.

But when it got down to talking contract this winter he never got the feeling the Als wanted him to stay for love, or money. "It was really her (wife, Rebecca's) call. If she wanted to stay in Montreal we'd still be there because it's not just about money. If she's happy, then I've got a happy life.

"But she was, like, 'look, they're not respecting you there. Let's go!' So, daddy packed and we leave."

The Ticats couldn't be happier. They get a hard-edged runner; one who has averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 71 games. They also have someone who head coach Marcel Bellefeuille believes marks a change in the culture of the club; one who brings a harder edge.

Cobourne is counted upon to improve the Cats' ground game but also to bring some swagger and an intensity to a team that lacked both at times last season.

"He's a guy who just makes plays and we need to find ways to get him the ball," says offensive co-ordinator, Khari Jones, "But what he also brings is exuberance and he'll hold guys accountable on the offensive side of the football."

Even in this Football 101 howdy-do, Cobourne was a vocal presence. "We brought him in as a good player but he has that personality that is demanding of himself and others," said Bellefeuille. "Obviously when you've had the success he's had (criticism) is accepted more by the other players."

So, he's shouting at offensive players to run to the ball after it's caught, or on blocks "if he saw one person not doing it, he'd call out that person," said Bellefeuille, "so it's not just coaches doing it now, it's players demanding (accountability) of other players."

Cobourne replaces D'Andra Cobb, two years younger at age 30 and also a 1,000-yard rusher. But the Ticats believe Cobourne is a better all-round player, while Cobb, who signed with Montreal, excels more in the open field.

"They're different. D'Andra is a very good player. Avon brings us more yards between the tackles," said Bellefeuille, "probably more chunks of four and five yards rather than feast or famine. Plus, he's very good in the screen game."

Meantime, he's in the home-hunting game before training camp opens for real in June; looking for a cozy landing for Rebecca, and their two-month old son, Avon III.

"We just bought a house in Florida but she's coming up for the season, even if she don't know it yet," said Cobourne, grinning. "I want to see my son grow up, too. She'll be here ... because daddy got to have some say in this, too."

And, if his wife puts up a defence?

No problem. Cobourne's made a career poking holes in those.


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